Gary A. Clark Jr. officially started as the new UCLA director of admission on Monday. Clark was previously a senior associate director of admission at the University of Southern California. Before his time at USC, he worked in the admissions department of Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. He has also worked on the admissions staff at the College of William & Mary and Christopher Newport University, both located in Virginia. He sat down with Daily Bruin Campus editor Jillian Beck to discuss his new position.
Daily Bruin: What are your responsibilities as director of UCLA Undergraduate Admissions?
Gary A. Clark Jr.: I’m going to be responsible for the recruitment and (application review) process associated with undergraduate admissions for both freshman and transfer applicants. I’m basically in charge of helping us to determine our direction and efforts in terms of California recruitment, out-of-state recruitment and international recruitment ““ where do we go, how do we interact with prospective applicants and what kind of service do we provide for them? Are we able to answer their questions, are we able to help them navigate the admissions process and understand the admission process? (Also) to facilitate visits to campus, to give them opportunities to interact with us before the point of application, to get to know UCLA throughout that process and ultimately, if admitted, to do everything we can to help them choose to become a Bruin. A lot about visiting schools and dealing with students before the point of application, then obviously once they’ve applied, overseeing the staff that evaluates those applications and make recommendations in conjunction with the faculty on who we’re going to admit and who we’d like to bring to UCLA. And then once admitted, to work with folks in this office and across campus and alums to yield the class ““ to help the students who are admitted that have other extraordinary offers that they’re choosing from to choose UCLA.
DB: Before being appointed as the director of UCLA admission, you worked at USC ““ which is just across town ““ and have experience working at both public and private universities. What differences, if any, have you noticed between public and private universities?
GC: Well, I think state universities are charged with, first and foremost, serving the students of that state. So when I was in Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia had expectations of how many students we were going to take from the state, and first and foremost our commitment was to serve those students. But then, (public universities) are also asked to supplement that with students outside of California ““ or in Virginia during the time that I was there ““ which I think is a really positive thing.
I think that my experience in a private school environment was an extraordinary amount of diversity ““ and in this case, specifically geographic diversity ““ and how positive of a contributor that was to enriching classroom discussions. I think that in a University of California school there’s an extraordinary commitment to students from the state of California, but having some voices from students from different parts of the country and different parts of the world to add to those discussions in the classroom ““ it’s really valuable. That’s obviously one difference I notice … when I was at USC about half of the students ““ a little less than half of the students ““ came from California and the other half came from outside. Here we are two days after Proposition 30 passed. That’s something that obviously has significant implications for state universities and doesn’t impact private schools. Private schools don’t have to be as directly aware of those kinds of things. Indirectly it would have had an impact if it didn’t pass, but at a state institution you have to be much more mindful of what’s happening in the state capital and how that might impact the experience for your students.
DB: How do you expect UCLA will be different than USC, in terms of admissions?
GC: You know, I think I still need to learn the intricacies of the (application review) and selection process here at UCLA. We are right in the middle of the application submission time, and so I’m seeing a lot of data about applications that are rolling in already, but I haven’t yet learned ““ forward and backward ““ the power of the process here at UCLA. From what I’ve learned thus far, I’m happy to see a lot of similarities. I think the holistic review process at UCLA, in some ways, reflects the same kind of value of the individual that private colleges and universities place in their file review process as well ““ looking beyond just numbers and understanding context and writing ability, family situation and leadership, each of which contribute significantly to the decision we might make.
DB: Do you see any areas where UCLA admissions could improve?
GC: I think if there’s anything that I can bring to this position, it’s really an additional commitment to service to students. That’s not to say that it’s not happening now, but I think there’s a lot more that we can do to make sure students aren’t intimidated by this (application) process, especially students for whom college is not a forgone conclusion, but that they know they have a resource available to them that’s going to help them understand the process and understand that we value academic ability and experiences students bring to the process. So I think that a commitment to serving students is something I hope to bring ““ and I think experience with recruitment and file review from a bit of a different perspective, at a private university.
DB: What changes, if any, do you plan to implement at UCLA Undergraduate Admissions this year?
GC: That’s a good question, and I don’t know if I have a specific answer quite yet.
I think I need to really learn the landscape and understand what we’re doing in terms of communicating with students, what kind of events do we provide, how do we communicate with our admits, what opportunities do they have to really get to know UCLA and understand those things a little more intimately before making a specific recommendation about what needs to be changed. I don’t think I’ve been brought in with a mandate to make massive changes, but to really just continue to think about new and innovative ways we can approach the work that we do.
DB: Holistic admissions, which was adopted in 2006, takes several attributes for every student into account within the application review process. UCLA law professor Richard Sander recently released a report that questions the legality of the supplemental review process within holistic admissions. What are your thoughts on the supplemental review process and the reports’ claims?
GC: Well, I think it’s, again ““ and I’m going to sound like I’m dodging the question and I really don’t intend to do that ““ I don’t know this process well enough yet to be able to comment on whether supplemental review is what Professor Sander has portrayed it to be. I know that the staff here is committed to abiding by the law of California and not being in violation of (Proposition 209). I also understand UCLA’s commitment to having a diverse student body. I think that I need some time to understand this process a little bit better before I could really comment on that.